Flag chaos: switching from Belgian or Dutch to Italian? Impossible and expensive


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Switching from Belgian to Italian flag for one’s boat? It’s a real mess!

Failing to switch from the Belgian or Dutch flag to the Italian flag and then choosing the French flag out of desperation is a clear example that Italy is not working well.

Experts say Italy will be saved from the crisis only if it is, in a short time, able to implement a real reform of the bureaucracy, in the name of simplification that other European countries have been implementing for decades.

But it will be tough, given where you start from. Listen to what happened. Prompted by numerous emails asking how to divest the Belgian or Dutch flag due to the
recent abolition of “light” registries
of boating that the two European nations had instituted, we got to the bottom of the problem.

Switching from Belgian Dutch to Italian flag: a real mess

We simulated owning a Dutch-flagged boat that urgently needed to change its flag and switch to the Italian registry.

Our hypothetical boat had expired its license to register with the Dutch “light” ship registry, which would no longer be renewed due to the “tulip” government’s decision to abolish it because of the controversy that followed the case of NGO ships operating in the Mediterranean rescuing refugees.

We contacted a maritime brokerage agency, presented the case to him, and he sent us the list of documents to be produced. Interminable. We said we had all the documents in digital copy, a classic PDF.

In 2020, all paper, never digital

First insurmountable hurdle. The documents must all be produced in hard copy originals. We pointed out that the boat had been purchased used and the documents we possessed were those and, in any case, had been deemed valid to renew the Dutch license.

Answer: he has to look for the originals. Our answer: this is what we own, perfectly legal to certify that we own the boat.

We were told that even if we had all the huge documentation requested in original, it would take a few months (3 or 4) to get the answer if the vessel was eligible to honor the Italian flag.

But there remains the catch of the VHF red button that costs a fortune

Another bureaucratic problem concerning the famous red rescue button that current VHFs possess. For those who don’t know, the red DSC button marked “Distress” which means “danger, difficulty, emergency” in Italian is used to automatically launch a distress call. We stated that we do not have the license that enables us to hit the red button without incurring fines and criminal penalties. Well, we should have attended a course-“the first available session is in two months.” Cost? Ridiculously high with great waste of time.

The cost for a 10-meter? 4000 euros

They also alerted us that, however, the boat would be subject to a thorough inspection by a certifying body, which would involve hauling and launching the boat.

Let’s make a long story short, while not having the slightest certainty of someday being able to raise the tricolor banner with the maritime republics on the stern, the total cost of the practice, VHF red key patent included, would have been, on a hand count, almost 4,000 euros for a boat of just over 10 meters.

The solution thanks to a blog

So what do we do, sink the boat? Virtually desperate, we typed the words “Dutch flag urgent change” on the Internet. Magically, hope opened up. One blog talked about the French flag replacing the Dutch flag. He recounted that everything had been simple and inexpensive.

Ready: go! We contacted an agency on Italian soil, which was conducting this practice online.

Response in ten minutes, “of course it can be done, you have to produce these documents:

– Dutch flag divestment original

– Photocopy of your ID card

– Your certificate of residence or a copy of a utility bill at your residential address (electricity, gas, telephone)

– The original of the vessel’s declaration of compliance (also in PDF)

Subsequent communication. Prompted by our request to tell us what we then had to produce in order to complete the paperwork, they informed us that, of course, we had to produce the original Dutch booklet.

Last step, we had to sign a form that must elect the owner/owner’s domicile with a correspondent in France (the agency of course).

Everything so simple and with only 1000 euros

Suspicious we asked the cost of this, terrified that it would cost far more than the nearly 4,000 euro cost, with no certainty of outcome, of the Italian flag.

Just under 1,000 euros was the answer. Oh yeah, but the certificate for VHF use is missing, that’s where the catch is, we thought. “He is right,” the agency apologized, “the 150 euro VHF license was missing.”

The ending is like a movie without words. Perhaps those in charge (agencies, trade associations, ministers, boating friends) should finally put their noses into this scandalous, Bourbon-like Italian bureaucracy, which causes every person with common sense to flee from the flag they love and would like. The Italian one.


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